Why Are Emotional Affairs so Destructive? There Isn’t an App for That

Jessica Lynn


Photo by Dreamstine

A woman texts her personal trainer asking him to go to the movies on a Friday night when her husband is out of town.

A man has a “friendship” with a woman — mostly through continuous texting — he met at work but neglected to mention his texting buddy to his spouse and their daily check-ins.

Another woman texts her “friend” at 6:00 am to make plans to meet at the gym later for one on one basketball. Her message is the first thing her “friend” sees when he wakes before he has a chance to say good morning to his wife.

There is no sex or physical contact between these “friends.”

Yet, their friendship excludes their respective partners at their SO’s expense. This is as destructive to the relationship as a one-off sexual encounter and probably more so.

In our connected world, the possibilities for a tryst are endless.

You no longer even need to leave your home to stray. You can actually have an affair while lying next to your partner. — The State of Affairs, Esther Perel

Emotional cheating

An emotional affair is defined as any infidelity that occurs through feeling or thought.

Fifteen years ago, before cell phones, the woman making plans at 6:00 am with her “buddy,” to play one on one basketball, would have had to call a landline (usually located in a prominent place in the household) to make said basketball plans.

The inappropriate wakeup call at 6:00 am would be obvious.

If the basketball “friend” hadn’t told his spouse about the “friendship” before the phone call, he would have to tell her who was calling at the ungodly hour once the phone rang.

Since the arrival of cell phones, inappropriate texting goes on all the time between “friends.” At all hours of the day, anytime, day or night. Whether it is midnight or 6:00 am.

Everyone is available.

All. The. Time.

Cheating now includes having intimate correspondence with someone while on a cell phone, meeting someone over the Internet, or at work. And maintaining a close emotional relationship with someone other than your spouse. — Mydomain.com

If you are not getting your needs met in your relationship and go outside of it to get those needs met, even if it is via text, that is one definition of an emotional affair.

Emotional affairs often lead to traditional affairs — the addition of sex.

While physical cheating is easier to spot, emotional cheating is not, and it is much easier to be in denial about it.

If your partner isn’t inviting you on her long, scenic hikes with her platonic male “friend,” or planning these encounters when she knows you aren’t available to join, this is a sign of an emotional affair.

Sending bids for connection via text; sending poetry, art, sexual innuendoes, heart emojis, texting things like, “I was thinking about you that night coz it was so pleasant and breezy around midnight,” and trying to connect emotionally with a “friend” of the opposite sex is an emotional affair. You may want to take a good long look at your current relationship.

According to author Bobby Box, “suggestive language and sexual innuendo have no place in a healthy opposite-sex friendship.”

If you find out about a relationship your partner is having, and you have no knowledge of it, or their relationship consists of hundreds of texts exchanged with intimate details about each other’s lives, that’s an emotional affair.

The definition of a traditional affair has changed

The definition of cheating has expanded in recent years due to social media and the smartphone. There are simply more ways to get in touch with people; exes, friends at work, people you meet on the “outside.”

Julie Spira, the founder of Cyber-Dating Expert, says, “some of the key signs that someone might be having an emotional affair usually starts with their mobile phone.”

A married ex of mine contacted me years ago and wanted to grab a drink. Had it not been for Facebook, he wouldn’t have been able to reach out with such little effort and ask for my cell. At the time, I was in a satisfying relationship and accepted his friend request, not thinking twice about it.

Silly in retrospect.

Had he not friended me, the likelihood of me ever seeing him again would have been less probable. I could have said no to seeing him, but didn’t. It was a mistake on my part to accept.

It took me years to get over him the first time. Our relationship was mutually caring and positive when we were together; it would be effortless to have feelings for him again. The ability to text makes it easy and effortless to maintain a connection.

This is how it happens. And it is tough to navigate.

[Emotional affairs] used to be common with people at work because that’s where they spend most of their time.” But with over 1.3 billion smartphones, over 1 billion people on Facebook, and 50 million people on Tinder alone, it’s never been easier to flirt or communicate with someone online or from your mobile phone. So now it’s not only the co-workers who may be culprits, it’s everyone. “While it might be innocent communications at first, it can easily turn into an emotional affair when you start sending more intimate messages like ‘good morning’ and ‘goodnight’ texts to someone. Bustle

When you enter into a friendship with someone of the opposite sex, even via text, it will cause problems in your relationship if you don’t keep it platonic. If more time, more attention, more energy goes to someone else, less goes to your partner.

Trust is built over years and decades together, it only takes five minutes to burn it to the ground.

If you’re reaching out to a member of the opposite sex frequently to fill some need that isn’t being met by your partner, you need to take a closer look at the relationship.

Something isn’t working.

Trying to find it with another person while ignoring and giving less to your partner won’t help anything, and it will hurt your spouse.

Often those who stray do so when they aren’t feeling good about themselves, so they look to others and allow others too much space and time to fulfill them emotionally in a way they can’t fill.

They feel empty themselves, or in their current relationship (most likely both), so they look outside for someone to give them meaning.

It is not uncommon for an emotional affair to become a physical one.

When you go outside of the relationship to fulfill you, you withhold intimacy from your partner in favor of the third party; it usually includes hiding secret text messages or lying about encounters.

How to detect an emotional affair

  • Your partner keeps communication with their “friend” secretive and hidden.
  • They share intimate life updates and details about their everyday life.
  • Late-night or early morning texting. Saying ‘goodnight’ and ‘good morning.’
  • They share intimate life details about your relationship, especially problems with it.
  • They are reluctant to introduce you to their “friend” or they try to manipulate the situation and plan things with their “friend” when you are not available.
  • They put their “friend” before you.
  • They reply to their “friend” immediately when they receive a text from them.
  • They experience “crush” feelings or a strong feeling of excitement or frisson when they get a text from their “friend.”
  • Talking or texting to the point of over-sharing.
  • They are asked over and over by their “friend” to do things alone.
  • Your partner starts checking out emotionally during sex or is not present at all.
  • You stop having sex when before you did.
  • They don’t turn to you first with problems, and they are quiet about things they usually share with you — they are telling someone else about their day.
  • Your partner is online for hours (for instance, after you go to sleep), instant messaging on Facebook, or tapping away on their phones.

Your most important source of intimacy should be with your romantic partner, if not, it’s real and harmful to your relationship, and it is cowardly to keep it from your spouse.

If you are being dishonest about a relationship you have with a “friend” in any way, shape, or form, it signifies something is significantly wrong in your relationship and only leads to broken trust and hurt feelings.

Imagine what your relationship with your spouse could look like if you took all the energy and sexual frisson you are giving to your “friend” and put it into your relationship instead.

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Writing on all things California and Texas. It unfolds here. Your daily dose of local news. From politics to food, from celebrity culture to current events. Follow me for the latest updates. Twitter: @girl_thriving

Los Angeles, CA

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